Welcome to where time stands still
No one leaves and no one will.

I was working late tonight(again), when my former cubicle-neighbor came by to get printouts. Into the tranquil silence of the office she cast out a comment: “Hccch! I see all tha' other nuts're workin' late t'night as usual!” There was more silence before I and the tech-guy nearby installing something on one of my neighbor's computers turned and gave her our best “Excuse me?” looks before shaking our heads. She laughed, taking it as assent, and as she departed I told her I preferred the term “phantom”.

Dream the same thing every night
I see our freedom in my sight

I was exhausted and fighting a cold, my nose running like a faucet all day, my nostrils raw from repeated blottings. I've worked too late to get down to the gym for two days now. I sure wasn't going to miss last night's Lost(and by the way, WHOA!), and tonight I wanted to get home for the long-awaited return of Tru Calling. As the clock neared seven, I had a choice to make. Keep working and skip the gym for the third day in a row, or break free and get in some much-needed exercise before heading home.

They keep me locked up in this cage
Can't they see it's why my brain says “rage”

It was good to run again, literally clearing my head as my heart pumped faster. There's only so long a body can sit at a desk before the fog settles in like a shroud. So caught up was I in the joy of motion that I lost track of time. I had ten minutes to get home when I left the parking lot finally, and my commute has never been accomplished in less than 25 minutes.

Build my fear of what's out there
Cannot breathe the open air
Whisper things into my brain
Assuring me that I'm insane.

There have been 2 or 3 thankfully brief moments when my dizzy spells while driving have resurfaced in the last week or so. I've all but forgotten the problem, and having a lot on my mind kept me from dwelling and reinforcing a problem I can only suspect was fueled by stress or anxiety. I was sailing home as I always did, listening to music and thinking about girls, and work, and life, and geek pop culture, a unique MCF stream-of-consciousness often imitated, rarely duplicated. I was two minutes from home when the KRock D.J., talking over a significant portion of a song's guitar intro, caught my attention. It wasn't the goofy banter with the caller that made me slow down, and I in fact cannot recall what nonsense he was spewing. It's more and more common for D.J.s to talk over songs and make more “use” of their airtime. It's a lot like how sitcoms and other shows now splitscreen during credits so they can run coming attractions or commercials for other shows. I can't remember the last time a show ended fullscreen with a montage of chronological stills from the episode I'd just watched. As a kid I used to play a game with it, and try to guess how close to the end of the episode the last still would be. “I bet they show the last hilarious thing ARNOLD did...”

They think our heads are in their hands
But violent use brings violent plans
Keep him tied, it makes him well
He's getting better, can't you tell?

I remember when this band was GOOD, and the guitar solo the idiot was talking over brought me back to better days. I hoped he would stop talking and that they would actually play the song, and I was actually driving slower so I'd get to hear some of it, even though it meant missing more than I already had of Tru Calling. He stopped talking just shy of the part where the vocals come in, so I did get a bit of a treat tonight. It's good I left my nuthouse when I did.

No more can they keep us in
Listen, damn it, we will win.

In conclusion, I learned three things tonight:

1) If a person at work refers to an individual as one of the “other nuts,” that individual has definitely stayed at his desk too long.

2) Alan Thicke of Growing Pains wrote and SANG the theme to Diff'rent Strokes.

3) As usual, FOX has cut down another great show without giving it a chance. The two episodes that aired tonight, especially the second one, make me sad that we'll never see where Tru Calling might have gone.



We're all capable of great good, and great evil. The potential for both extremes lies buried deep within us, sometimes beyond our perception. We make the decision which self we let out in any given situation. Free will allows us to listen to the Demons & Angels on our shoulders.

I wish I could say that I was a connoisseur of culture, that I regularly watched public television in my youth for intellectual enlightenment. The truth is, my parents didn't have cable and an unattractive geek often found himself surfing UHF stations on lonely Friday nights, in hopes of catching a glimpse of a breast. Sometimes he did, other times he just found stations with an abundance of attractive females. Occasionally he'd flip past and linger on something called Red Dwarf. He wasn't sure what it was, if it was part of a sketch comedy show or something else. Some of the character's accents were harder to decipher than others, and it was odd to watch robots and space ships and hear a laugh track. Eventually, he became hooked, and found himself watching the show every Friday at 10:30PM. This sad loser told me about the show, and I took a break from my busy social life to....what's that? I already made it obvious I was talking about myself when I used the phrase “my parents”? There's no point in continuing this charade, or trying to pull off the proper voice in the written word? I should gracefully move on to the next paragraph?

Red Dwarf stopped airing here at some point. There was talk of a movie but it's been pushed back so many times, that it's seeming less and less likely. Some of the stars have shown up in American movies in recent years, with Danny John-Jules appearing in Blade II and Chris Barrie showing up in Tomb Raider(as well as its sequel. I haven't been totally devoid of this cult favorite though. For the past three years, the show has been coming out on DVD, two seasons a year. Every season has been loaded with commentaries, bonus features, easter eggs, trading cards, and episode synopses booklets. Series V and VI have recently made it to my collection, and I've been making may way through V this week in between work and television. Though I was sure I'd seen every episode, I didn't remember Demons & Angels. I certainly remembered other episodes from this series, especially The Inquisitor which mixed some great hard SF and time paradoxes in to a goofy sitcom and cemented me as a fan. I have a feeling my local station would preempt episodes for specials, and simply skip them. There were also episodes that ALWAYS fell on a night when I'd be performing in one of my Summer concerts.

However it happened, last night was the first time I saw this episode. I was stunned to see the ship DESTROYED in the first five minutes, even though I knew they spent the subsequent season in Starbug(looking for RD though which, as I recall, had been stolen by nanoprobes). As a result of an experiment gone wrong, two duplicate Dwarfs were created, each with duplicates of the crew. One ship was in perfect working order, and the crew were selfless and idealized. The other was a rundown hellship manned by sadistic lowlifes. It was a great episode in which each cast member was at times playing three different aspects of himself. It really demonstrated their range and talent, and blended humor and philosophy.

It was interesting to see each character, even the android Kryten who was becoming more capable of breaking his programming and demonstrating human emotion, at their absolute best and their absolute worst. Most fictional tales, especially but not limited to comic books, present us with extremes. Heroes. Villains. It seems you can't have one without the other. The truth is, most of us fall into a murky middle ground. A good student might just as easily go home and look for nudity on television. It's farfetched I realize, but it could happen. We're all GoodBad sometimes.


Blog Wars

Darrell at Film Geeks has been seduced by the dark side.
Well no, but when I saw his post this morning, I had to respond.
The nerd in me would launch an all-out blog war,
an attack on the character of an individual
who merely disagrees with me.
He makes some good points
though, and has a right to
his opinion. Here now
is my opinion on
the subject of
Star Wars®:

”There's never been a believable, compelling female character in a Star Wars movie....Princess Leia, is, in fact, the second least compelling female character in modern movies. The all-time least compelling female character is Padmé Amidala.”

I want to refute this with something short and clear, like ”steel bikini”, but that really doesn't refute what he said. If anything, it supports it. I will say that there are an undisclosed number of years between each sequel—hardcore SW® geeks probably have exact figures—that account for her development from “damsel in distress to bad-ass riot grrrl”. It is my understanding that most of the backstory is filled in by the novels, none of which I've read. A movie should, however, work on it's own. Whether we “fill in the gaps ourselves” or read the licensed material, we can still arrive at an understanding of what's going on between the movies. As for Padmé, I did like her a lot better in the second movie and expect to like her even more in the third, when the tragedy hits and things come full circle. Remember, in the original trilogy, the only thing Leia remembered about her mother was her crying...

I almost wish Yoda HADN'T worked. If it hadn't, maybe Lucas wouldn't have turned the third movie into The Muppets Take The Empire. The Ewoks were just silly. Am I supposed to really believe that Luke could whip Jabba the Hutt's forces and still ended up taken prisoner by the Care Bears?”

This isn't blasphemy Darrell; I think MOST fans would agree on this account. Empire is regarded as the best because of how dark it was compared to the first movie, but also how cheesy the Ewoks made Jedi. Lucas WANTED to go to the Wookie planet originally, so that's one thing that has me excited about Episode III, to finally see that. Yoda still sort of works upon rewatching, but he's awesome in Episode II and blew me away in Clone Wars—particularly Chapter 23.

Mark Hamill is just a bad actor. Period. Want proof? OK, name two other movies he's been in besides the Star Wars films.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Comic Book: The Movie.

Hayden Christensen is a TERRIBLE actor.


Why does Lucas cast these mannequins?

To make great actors like Ford and McGregor look better by comparison? I also get the sense that mannequins are what he WANTS for these roles. The story is compelling enough that it could be almost anyone. The story of the betrayal and loss felt by those around them, that care for them, takes center stage and Lucas would rather have the archetype take center stage before the actor.


Childhood nostalgia plays a HUGE role in forgiving the examples Darrell cited in his post. The dialogue doesn't quite hold up now as an adult, at least rewatching the original trilogy. I had a similar feeling when I finally saw my beloved Transformers again on DVD. Twenty years later, I realized the problems I had with R.I.D. as an adult would have applied to the original series had I been older when I first watched. For all the bad dialogue though, there were some great lines in there and some, like Ford's “I know” to Leia's “I love you”, were ad libbed. Luke's whiny “I wanna go to Tashi station and pick up some POWER converters.” was something my ex-girlfriend and I used to make fun of though. Man, Mark Hamill sucked. Why does Lucas cast these mannequins?


Well...the thing about Jar Jar is...I mean that's an isolated....okay, his role was cut back in the sequel and...and yeah, I have to agree with this one.

So far, I think the story was better left untold. Boba Fett's backstory has been hokey and contrived. And Anakin Skywalker's has been one of the biggest disappointments ever.

I liked Boba's backstory and his connection to the Stormtroopers. I like everything about Boba Fett except for his lame death. As for Anakin, all I can say is watch Clone Wars if you haven't already, and stay tuned for the third movie. I can't wait to see it and if it's not as good as the trailer, cartoon, and my own inner hype promises, I may end up as disappointed as you. My hope is that when it's all over, this trilogy will hold up better as a whole than it does as individual episodes. Time will tell.

Episode IV: A New Hope ... 3 stars.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back ... 3 and a half stars.
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi ... 2 stars.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace ... 1 and a half stars.
Episode II: Attack of the Clones ... 3 stars.

Episode IV: A New Hope ... 4 stars.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back ... 4 and a half stars.
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi ... 3 stars.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace ... 2 and a half stars.
Episode II: Attack of the Clones ... 4 and a half stars.



Breathing Underwater

”And in the darkest hour, there will be a light.”—Optimus Primal

What a gloomy day. It's a Monday. It's pouring out. There were floods everywhere. A napkin that blew out of my hands when I got to work this morning apparently landed on the hood of my car, to be discovered at lunch as a mass of pulp. I came home to find buckets in the kitchen and the lights out as my parents called from the dining room to say we were having dinner in there tonight. Water was coming in the light fixture and from the edge of the skylight, where the saturated sheetrock ceiling had grown several “nipples”. As usual, I worked late and didn't get down to the gym until after 7PM. It seems impossible to keep up with all my assignments, especially with days like tomorrow, in which the majority of my time will be spent away from my desk in meetings.

There are moments during times like these, bright spots that no doubt are brighter for all the shadows around them. At some point this evening, maybe around six, I rolled my chair back and looked at what I'd done. It's rare these days that I admire my work, or even remember why I got in to this field. I thought being an artist would mean creating beautiful things for myself and others to admire. That's not the case, and at times I feel as though I'm working on an assembly line, putting pieces in place and moving on to the next project. I rarely stop, take a breath, and LOOK. But tonight I had a moment, two or three in fact, in which I looked at the page on the screen and thought, “Wow, that doesn't look half bad.” Pride can be dangerous, but it's good to feel good and have confidence about something you've created now and then. I certainly have a lot more confidence in my abilities than I did ten years ago.

“Wow, that doesn't look half bad.” It's great to have a reminder like that, that THIS is why I do what I do. Drove home in the rain, but it didn't matter. Still had a pile of work left unfinished, but I knew it would get done on time. Water fell on me in the kitchen, an unexpected cold drop running down my back. It wasn't the first time that happened, simply the first time it happened indoors. It didn't matter. My new Red Dwarf DVD's had FINALLY arrived. The box they came in was beat-up, but they were intact. After dinner and a great hour of thrills and necessary suspension of disbelief, I'm now ready to settle in for some sci fi laughs.

Pop quiz:

1) What do you do for a living?
2) Is it what you thought it would be?
3) If it isn't, do you ever have moments where you realize you're doing something you like and are good at?


Phantasmic Links 3.27.05

Hello! Hopefully all my readers celebrating Easter today had a good one, and everyone had a good weekend in general. My uncle came over, and we had a nice quiet dinner of ziti, sausage, chicken cutlets, and other assorted goodness. As I listened to my dad and my uncle compare notes on the perils of having false teeth, I felt an appreciation for my youth. On Friday, one of my friends, a saxophone player in his 70s who had recently beaten prostate cancer, told us he's glad every morning to wake up and see his face in the mirror. It reminds me of a saying my friend Bill, another musician, often uses: “youth is wasted on the young.” I need to get out and do SOMETHING before I'm one of these old guys I hang around with, but I'm not sure what. I, like them, may not even realize that I am living my life. There's something about being a musician that keeps people young. Maybe it's the fresh air, or the exercise, but these old-timers are going strong long after I'm feeling tired. I know one clarinet player in New Jersey who, at the age of 93, will still go out and play a twelve hour procession. Old musicians may possess wisdom and endurance, but I bet I'm still a better surfer. On that note, here are this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

Even if it goes straight to DVD, I'm anxiously awaiting the U.S. release of the movie sequel to the greatest Final Fantasy game of all time.

This Episode III trailer with L33T speak subtitles had me ROFL like a n00b. Definitely check it out while it lasts. Hat tip to Sarcasmo's Corner.

Kev Bayer finds some great quizzes. Here are my results from his latest:
B. A. Baracus
You are 59% crazy and 60% bad-assed.
I pity the fool who needs any explanation of who you are.
You carry your entire intestinal tract on your sleeve, and children love your honesty and guidance. Though not as crazy as some, you're still a little off, but you've got the brawn to back it up. Nobody can argue with you, you mountain of golden bling!

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 64% on lunacy
You scored higher than 68% on bad-itude
Link: The 'Which A-Team member are you?' Test written by wm_the_bloody on Ok Cupid

I love a game that makes you use your brain while floating through an alien environment. There are hints and cheats built in, but it's honestly more fun to work it out for yourself. The only hint I'll offer is that sometimes the letter for the keyboard shortcut that's paired with the alien symbol may also be the first letter of the translated word. It's fun, funny and challenging.

ANYTHING can be made into art. This guy's work, made entirely from things found in nature, is as fascinating to look at as it is transient.

”Are you asking for a CHALLLLLENGE?!”

This may be the MOST ADDICTIVE LINK I've ever posted. This is one of those things that makes a person truly appreciate the power of the internet. I lost hours today making my own “name that tune” quizzes, marveling at how almost anything could be found. You name it, it's there. Nirvana. Temple of the Dog. Even William Hung. I told my mom about it and was quickly playing her requests: Guy Lombardo. Tommy Dorsey. Rodgers and Hammerstein. About halfway through an Andy Williams quiz I decided to have a little fun, and switched it to O.D.B. As a sample of ”Shimmy Shimmy Ya” boomed from my computer's speakers she merely smiled, and said, “That doesn't sound like 'Moon River'.



It means:
1. a. A watch kept during normal sleeping hours.
b. The act or a period of observing; surveillance.
2. The eve of a religious festival observed by staying awake as a devotional exercise.
3. Ritual devotions observed on the eve of a holy day. Often used in the plural.

As we do every year, my church began the Easter celebration by a roaring fire outside, where everyone passed a flame from candle to candle. The procession moved inside where the lights remained out through the first seven readings. The priest said the initial blessing beneath a plain wooden cross, far less of a spectacle than the ceremony I saw yesterday. Our pastor has a sense of humor and cracked some good-natured jokes, and I could sense my dad squirming. Most of the time he goes to a different parish than my mother and I, because he can't stand a priest not being serious. Usually he says something about it, and since his voice gets louder the worse his hearing gets, it tends to be embarrassing. This year he managed to hold his tongue, even during the announcements at the end when the priest quipped that there would be no sunrise mass tomorrow because he “wasn't gettin' up early.” On the way to the car, my dad's only real complaint/observation was, “How can anyone understand him through that beard? He was mumbling the whole time!” I sometimes wonder if my dad has some weird bias against facial hair. He himself has always been clean-shaven, and the four years of college during which I wore a goatee led to many confrontations. When it was time to graduate I was tired of hearing that I “wouldn't find a job lookin' like a bum” and found it easier to shave. Sometimes I miss it. I'd say it was my dad's hearing though, and not the priest's beard, that spared him from anything said that he might have found objectionable.

There's something hypnotic about fire. I don't think this qualifies me to be a pyromaniac, but whenever I've had the occasion to look at fire, whether on a camping trip, or a religious observance, or birthday celebration, it is fascinating to look at and think about the science by which heat and light are created. It's also really cool to watch wax melt, and tilt the little holder to make different shapes. Former neighbors gave my parents a really cool gift years ago, a golden pyramid-shaped candle. There were little plastic trinkets inside the candle, “treasures” that would be revealed as the wax melted. I had a lot of fun watching that burn.

Many Christians are keeping watch tonight for their risen Lord by candlelight. Candles are often used in this way. When a soldier in a family is away at war, they may keep a candle burning in their window. Candles may be used to honor those fallen in a tragedy. The sight of a crowd holding candles aloft instantly evokes the emotion being expressed, and has been used successfully in movies like Pay it Forward as well as comics like Avengers Disassembled.

How do you like to demonstrate vigilance?


Good Friday

What a truly surreal evening I've had.

Tonight was the job I'd snapped at my dad about earlier this week. We didn't have to be in Queens until 5:30 but were picking up a trumpet player at a train station on the South shore. I probably should have gone in to work and asked to leave early, with all the work that's been piling up lately, but I felt it would be less stressful to stay home and use a vacation day. After working late for four days(and still not getting ahead), it would be nice to sleep in and relax. My brain had other ideas. First I dreamt I was walking to some restaurant I'd never been to, and meeting all my college friends there. For some reason I had booked a table for four but there were more than twice that number, and some of my college friends morphed into former co-workers who've left for various reasons. When the hostess objected, I watched a me that wasn't me boldly argue back and threaten to take my business elsewhere. More astounding was the fact that I won the argument. At some point the restaurant morphed into a sweet office with dim lighting and a stained wood finish; it was like an elegant cabin. I had an outer office for my receptionist, and glass tinted doors leading to my inner sanctum and large oak desk. I had her put my boss on hold, and started playing video games since my monitor faced away from my (now closed) door. Of course, e-mails about the two clubs I work on soon interrupted my game play and I frantically became aware of the time and sat bolt upright in bed, reached for my watch, and saw that it was 7AM. Only I would take the day off, dream about work, and wake up even earlier.

I went back to sleep for a few hours, and spent my day relaxing, watching DVDs, and surfing. My dad and I left around 3:30, and met the trumpet player by 4:15. I had estimated an hour's ride, but there was surprisingly little traffic despite my dad's fear of people being let out of work early for the holiday, and we got there in a half hour and found plenty of parking. It was a beautiful church, and I'd actually played another job there for the trumpet player's band about four or five years ago. My dad didn't remember the church until the second time he used the men's room(I'm SO not looking forward to my “golden” years).

It was COLD. Clouds threatened rain and some players mentioned the possibility of snow, but neither came to pass. I sat in the car for as long as I could, and finally we lined up in formation around 6:00. The temperature continued to drop and the wind made it feel like far less than 30 degrees. I tried to walk around and keep moving, and despite many layers of clothing and a thick jacket over my suit, I could still feel my limbs stiffening. At one point my dad offered the bizarre speculation that “Jesus died, and now he's getting us back by making us suffer.” I couldn't find the time or the right starting point to show him the flaws in that argument, and my jaw was frozen shut. I barely managed to shake my head. The services inside ran exceptionally long, and it was 7:30 before throngs of people made their way outside.

I watched as the priest spoke to the crowd from a small stage with a lfe-sized crucifix behind him. Many people held candles, and it reminded me of Easter services at our church. Usually a few words are said then we go back inside where our candles are the only light through several readings. It's a very nice vigil. This job tonight boasted something I've NEVER seen before. I watched with a mix of horror and curiosity as several men took a step ladder, and began taking apart the crucifix. As the first plastic arm fell limp, I realized it was a Detachable Jesus, something that felt a little sacrilegious to me. I considered that they were reenacting biblical events as we began playing a hymn from a book of funeral marches. However, when we finished the first song I saw that the “body” had been placed in a glass coffin, not unlike Snow White. We then proceeded to walk through the streets playing funeral songs, following the coffin, while people crowded us. It was nearly impossible to stay in line and I bumped in to quite a few people who gave me dirty looks despite my offerings of “excuse me, sorry, pardon me, excuse me please”. Between the crowd and the candles they carried, I soon forgot the cold and suspected a few times that I'd caught fire. I don't know what it is about some processions. Most of the time people stay on the sidewalk and if they are in the street, they give the band room. At parades, police barricades enforce this. But this job, like another one I do every year in Hoboken, attracted a selfish mob that despite the solemnity of the occasion, lacked simple courtesy and surged forward like schoolchildren at recess. I really, REALLY hate the crowd mentality. I'm usually polite and wave people on ahead of me when there are lines and stuff. Putting others before myself is something I took from my religious upbringing, so it was painfully surprising to see no one else there had gotten the same message.

After nearly three hours of being shoved, and my arms feeling like lead whenever I had to hold up my instrument, I was seriously considering looking for another line of work. I was exhausted and hadn't eaten in over eight hours, but it was dark and my dad has trouble seeing at night. Actually, he drove us to the job while it was still light and argued with me as usual about his inclination to drift to the right, even when people in the right lane were blowing their horns in fear. I had that numb cold-air and tingly low-blood-sugar feeling, but I was still the best candidate to drive. I just wanted to get the trumpet player to his train and get back home to open my envelope and see if the job was worth it(it wasn't), and get to a warm bed. My dad began making strong hints that we should drive the guy to his home out on Eastern Long Island, which meant an extra hour of non-stop driving for me. “Are you taking this parkway or this one?” And when I took the one he implied, I got, “Oh, you're going this way?” I was fuming. It wasn't until after we dropped the man off that he clarified that the hints weren't for my benefit, but for our passenger to respond with, “Oh no, you guys don't have to take me home. The train station is fine.” Of course, he didn't say a word and silently sat there while we went out of our way to get him home a little after 11. It was a little before midnight when we arrived home, and my mom was horrified to see I'd picked up some fast food, meat on this of all Friday's. I told her it had to be after midnight somewhere, and in five minutes it would be here as well.

What a night. There was also a full moon, which fits with everything that happened to me yesterday. I'm exhausted and achy. TGIF.


I am the Nexus.

I'm not superstitious, or I shouldn't be. My parents have always taught me that superstition was against our religion. Still, an awful lot of rare things happen to me that my luck has long since crossed beyond questioning coincidences. Every once in a while, a series of unlikely occurrences make me wonder if improbability is in fact my mutant ability.

Take tonight, for example. I exited my office building a little after 7:30, and made my way up the front steps to the nearly empty parking lot. A shadow moved, and I saw a small cat which I called out to. The frightened creature scurried down the sidewalk across my path, and as I watched him disappear into the night it occurred to me that a BLACK CAT had just bisected my routine trek. But I'm not superstitious.

I stopped off at the supermarket on the way home. When it came time to check out, I noted that the sign for the express lane said “12 items or less”. I was certain I had less, and as I unloaded counted to (of course™) 13. ”Triskaidekaphobia” isn't a word I've uttered since fifth grade, when I was trying to sound smart to impress a female friend, and I wasn't about to speak it again. All went well despite the unlucky number, and the cashier gave me no trouble for being one over. I checked both my bags thoroughly and noted a third bag on the turnstile that I nearly left. As I made my way outside I thought I heard shouting behind me. When I made my way past the store window the cashier was banging on the glass and held up a plastic bag. Item 13, an Easter card for my parents, had been given it's own bag apart from the other 12 items, and had been easily overlooked.

After dinner my dad hinted that my mom had hidden a small apple pie somewhere. The years have taught her that with my lack of self-control it's necessary to conceal dessert so I don't spoil my dinner. I decided to look for it, checking the usual drawers where pies have been found in the past. For some reason I opened the cabinets over the stove, a place pies have never been found, and a metal lid from a spaghetti pot rolled out, bounced off my head, and landed on the floor.

I'm still not superstitious, but if aliens destroy my blog tomorrow, I wouldn't be all that much surprised.


Greener Grass?

Which is better, school or work? Perhaps the question should be which is worse. Fittingly enough, after yesterday's post on the social class system, I found myself watching Welcome to the Dollhouse. I had long made the mistake of judging the movie by its cover, and found myself repulsed anytime someone, usually my girlfriend, recommended we see it. Eight years later I've discovered it wasn't anything like what I was expecting, and found it stirred a lot of emotions. The movie so realistically paints the way an outcast is treated by her family, teachers, and classmates, that it hurts. This movie made me sad and it made me angry. It's EXACTLY how I remember junior high, and it made me all the the more happy to have eventually grown up and gotten out in the “real” world. There's a line near the end of the film where her older brother tells her high school is better because people don't call you names to your face. So are kids cruel as the old cliché goes, or are they just honest? People of all ages say and do horrible things to this poor little outcast, and there's no escape.

Earlier today I found myself missing my school years. I didn't know it at the time, but I had less work to do back then. Something I've missed for the past nine years I've been working is having Summers off. Middle school and high school had harsh physical abuse and verbal abuse. In composing yesterday's post I thought of various names I had been called. As far back as elementary school kids were telling me I was “the abortion that came through” and worse. By high school it was only verbal abuse, and nothing harsher than “band troll” or “squeaker”, and the latter faded once my voice finally changed. By college the jokes were more good-natured ribbing between friends. College is a place I could have stayed indefinitely.

Oddly enough, since my workload increased at my job, so too have the number of meetings I'm required to attend. As bad as my workload was before, it was manageable with one meeting every three weeks. I was able to stay at my desk and focus. Meetings tend to drain me, especially afternoon ones. I got back to my desk after 4PM today after a meeting that lasted over two hours, and found I had to talk to a friend about comics, and unwind. When I did sit to get to work I was in a zombie state. I managed to overcome my usual post-meeting feeling of “what do I do first” and simply tackle one thing at a time, trying not to think about the other things until I got there. At one point in the evening, my old cubicle neighbor was passing by and saw I was still working. “What are we doing wrong that everyone else gets to go home at five?” she asked, a valid question. Part of it is focus. I have friends that can continue working and join in jokes and conversation around them. I lack that focus and I'm easily distracted. Yesterday I worked until 7PM because I had spent an hour talking to my friends in the afternoon. This was a problem I had beaten years ago. Teachers consistently had to move my desk so I wouldn't talk and could get my work done. Ultimately, it was truly solved when my parents sent me to a different high school from my friends. I thought I had banished my inner attention deficit demon years ago, but its reared it's ugly head at the worst possible time. Oddly enough I'm happy in those moments of my old self, and it's only when I sit back down at my desk and realize how much I've neglected that I regret it. I've been so tired, lately, so very tired. Is this all there is? Work hard in school, take tests, do three hours of homework a night so you can graduate, never have Summers off again, and sit at a desk for ten hours a day?

I haven't been punched in the stomach in nearly twenty years. No one has tried to shove poison berries down my throat, and while the security guard in my middle school used to tell me, “What do you expect? You were askin' for it.” when bullies broke my toys, the guard at my office smiles and says good morning every day. After school, I could go home and get away from my enemies, but I had a ton of homework. After work, I can go home and not have work to do, and watch DVDs and relax. In high school my day ended before 3PM, not counting after-school activities. On a good day at work I'm done by six, hit the gym for an hour or so, and I'm home by eight. Tonight I got done at 7:30, had no time for gym, drove home in freezing slush despite it being the end of March, and still didn't finish everything I planned to finish, or needed to given the fact that I'm taking Friday off.

Which is better, school or work? Perhaps the question should be which is worse. I honestly don't have an answer, and suspect it might be a case of the grass seeming greener on the other side. When I shovel snow, I long for warmer days. When I'm mowing the lawn, I look forward to the cold weather and the grass not growing. I'd like to think retirement is best, but with retirement comes boredom. Some days my dad will stand at the window, occasionally commenting to my mom that a neighbor got a new car, or that “those darn kids are riding on our sidewalk again!” Other days he'll sit in a chair and stare. He's happiest when we have a musical engagement to attend, or when his friends ask him to fix a car because that way he “won't get rusty sitting around doing nothing.” Besides liking art, I picked a field that wasn't as physical so I could keep working past 65. I also had this ideal dream of being a cartoonist stay-at-home dad like Ted Knight on Too Close For Comfort. Life rarely works out the way we want it to, or think it will. Good times don't last. Neither do bad ones, thankfully. Ultimately, all we can do is make the best of the cards we were dealt and learn to roll with the punches, and just keep moving.


Nerds, Geeks, and Dorks

I'd like to start out by saying that tonight's post is NOT meant to offend anyone. It is simply an analysis of terminology used in America, and my opinion of what certain categorizations mean. If anyone takes offense or thinks that I'm unjustly promoting unfair stereotypes, you're probably a jock and stumbled on to my site while searching for...something else. The following is meant for entertainment purposes ONLY:

Nerds are vicious creatures, superior in their intellectual greatness and using other people's stupidity and ignorance to make themselves look better at every opportunity. A nerd is a social outcast, someone who never, ever would be invited to a party, and who suffers emotional and physical scars at the hands of popular kids, girls and jocks. The one thing most people agree on, whatever their level in the social food chain, is that nerds “bring it on themselves.” Oftentimes a nerd will intentionally provoke a bully. In the nerd's mind, he thinks that pointing out where someone went wrong on his homework assignment in front of a cute girl will impress her. Nothing could be further from the truth of course, and people are baffled by this behavior, not realizing that because reality is such a burden, the nerd dwells in a fantasy realm of his own creation, and repeated failure only drives him further into this realm. He SHOULD learn from repeated beatings, but they tend to have the opposite effect as he retreats from all social logic. Even when a nerd learns to keep quiet the damage may already be done, and “cool” kids will seek him out for entertainment purposes and CREATE situations where the wrong response still results in him “bringing it on himself.” One, er, hypothetical situation I could imagine would be the leader of a group of such kids instructing them to hit him “when you see the whites of his eyes!”, and the nerd not being able to keep his eyes closed until they leave. Another baffling aspect of the nerd is the strange tendency to turn on those who take him in. Sometimes kids are genuinely cool and accepting. Other times there are those kids who exist on the fringe, apart from the dichotomy of nerds and jocks, who manage to lead a normal life. When people like this accept a nerd into their group, instead of gratitude they often find themselves the object of ridicule. Why would the nerd lash out at those who would be his friends, or at the very least tolerate him? I used the term “vicious creature” earlier, and it's apt. A nerd is not unlike an animal that's been abused, beaten to the point of being feral. A nerd trusts no one, and is paranoid. Kindness is unfamiliar and could mask a trap. But what's most intriguing is that the nerd may have learned by example. People he sees as popular made fun of him; it's the cool thing to do. Therefore he may emulate his attackers when he encounters people who are not antagonistic, and try to establish dominance in the pack in an erroneous fashion that only makes him more of an outcast. (see Napoleon Dynamite; Urkel; Warren Meers)

Geeks are somewhat more socially acceptable than nerds. A geek may be invited to a party if he's friends with cooler people who are going. The mark of geekhood usually involves being a fanatic to the extreme about some hobby not accepted by the majority of a nation. It's okay for people to paint their faces at sporting events, but to dress up as your favorite comic book hero or science fiction character makes you an outsider(see FawnDoo's for more insight into this phenomena.) Geeks are more than fans; they possess encyclopedic knowledge of the things they love, the more obscure the better. A geek can have friends of various social classes, though he may be made fun of by all of them, including fellow geeks. Whereas nerds are predominantly male, in this age of technology and increasing science fiction, fantasy, and comic book movies being released to the general public on a grander scale, the female geek population has grown. As with most things in America, advertising influences public opinion. Best Buy thrives on making it look cool to shop for electronics on your lunch hour, or on a date, or on holidays, and it works. Music has an influence too and as the images of rock stars evolved, bands like Barenaked Ladies and Weezer made it cool to wear glasses, watch Sci Fi, and reference X-men. (see Jerry Steiner, Marshall Flinkman, Jonathan Levinson; Andrew Wells.)

Dorks are capable of normal behavior and are definitely invited to parties. They're the lovable goofballs, the class clowns, and the comic relief. A Dork is accepted not just because he can “turn it off”, but because people like to laugh. Dork qualities may actually be appealing to women who find such traits adorable, and many dorks are happily married. Dorks may share in the same interests as geeks and possess the intellectual abilities of nerds, but their hobbies are nothing more and their intelligence isn't wielded as a weapon. (see Eric Weiss; Ross Gellar)

* * *

I have at times in my life fallen into these categories, and others too numerous to mention. Despite my attempt at a humorous anthropological breakdown, it is of course impossible to simplify any one human being down to one tag. There are definite overlaps. In my formative years I was definitely a nerd, especially in elementary school. I don't think I made the transition to geek until college, but then and now still had the occasional backslide into being a nerd. It's important to recognize that there are all kinds of people in this world with different strengths and weaknesses, but at times it can degenerate into little more than name-calling, which is why such an exercise can be dangerous. Again, I apologize if this offended anyone. Now if you'll excuse me, ”I've wasted my life.”


PLEASE don't try this at home...

I'm a hypocrite, and I know it.

Since the layoffs at my company, we've all had to adjust to a new workload. I've been content to design Science Fiction catalogs, flyers and book jackets, but have now had to take on a hunting club. I'm quite possibly the most carnivorous human being on the planet. I like my pizza with pepperoni and sausage. I get excited if someone even mentions fried chicken in the car at lunch. My favorite pastime in college was barbecue. I've also harbored a childlike aversion to vegetables far longer than healthy. I think I was twenty before I broke down and left lettuce on my cheeseburger and called it “salad”; twenty-two before I actually HAD a salad. In college I once told a bemused Chinese waiter to bring me the chicken with broccoli, and “hold the broccoli.” Yet despite all this, if I were left in the woods to fend for myself I would either learn to eat greens or die. I swerve to avoid squirrels, rabbits and raccoons in the road. Though I squashed insects with sadistic glee as a little boy, I grew up to be a man who catches spiders in the house in a plastic container, and releases them on the back porch(unless I find one in my bed, in which case his @$$ is paste).

As long as I never have to meet the cow or chicken or think about my dinner once resembling a living thing, I have no problem with meat. I'd never get a “meat is murder” bumper sticker like I saw during my morning commute today. Still, I've been adjusting to the content of the new magazine I'm designing, and seeing pictures of guys with dead deer, or a nine year old proudly holding up a squirrel he shot with his first gun on his birthday, or reading how a woman likes to cook a certain kind of squirrel, and use it's tail for a fishing lure. My friend Curt is from Texas, and he chalked up my attitude to being a “yankee”. Perhaps it is an offshoot of a sheltered existence, of having processed food readily available, and not having to worry about killing for survival. I still have some issue with hunting for sport, and killing something just to hang it's head on your wall. Giving a nine-year-old a real pistol doesn't sit well with me either.

Last week a report flashed across the television in the gym, and I nearly stopped in my tracks. I remembered soon enough that I was on a moving treadmill however, and managed a recovery without anyone (hopefully) noticing. I watched people point and click from their computer, moving a cross hairs around their screen and shooting. But this wasn't the typical news report that blames the violence in the world on video games and paints a picture of a peaceful time, of a world without war that only existed before Pong. What was different I soon realized, was that the cross hairs was over a webcam feed, and somewhere in the wilderness a REAL rifle was mounted on a movable base remote controlled by web surfers. Say what you will about the violence of a first person shooter, but this is REAL. Right now, Live Shot only lets people shoot at balloons and cups, and not living targets. Not yet. The idea that somewhere a real gun is loaded and pointing out into the open, and that an animal or a human being could be hit by a stray bullet triggered by someone miles away, who might not even be aware of a click's consequences, is terrifying.

Who's crazy here, me or the world?


Phantasmic Links 3.20.05

His eyes darted furtively from left to right. In the distance, the wind whistled. Somewhere, an old man cleared his throat. Soon, silence prevailed, until there came a mighty pounding of keys signifying the inexorable arrival of the felicitous PHANTASMIC LINKS:

After re-watching The Incredibles, my friend Rey wondered who voiced the character of Mirage. I myself had thought her voice familiar and at one point suspected Marina Sirtis, and so had checked and found it was in fact Elizabeth Peña. When I told him this he didn't recognize her name, and I went on to rattle off her previous roles, including the one I thought most famous, the title character of I Married Dora, a short-lived SitCom that apparently no one in our block of cubicles remembered other than myself. I remembered the overall premise of the show and the development of the main romance, but forgot the memorable ending until I came across it and others.

I spent WAY too much time playing Gold Miner: Special Edition today. In fact, I'm going to stop writing to play right now.

There's another hour of my life lost(stupid level 11). I find games addictive; quizzes too. Darrell at Film Geeks was bitten by the quiz bug, and even made his own: Which Random Item in his Car are You? (I was a Ninja Turtle)

Sometimes, my office is EXACTLY like this. Maybe I should stop eating breakfast at my desk...

Hey! Come back with my letters!

This is one of those sophisticated escape the room games. This one is considerably less sophisticated, but fun in it's own right.

Finally, a Wallace and Gromit movie; I love those guys.

From the sky, it all looks so different.

I love the “anatomy of a trailer” tone of this Hitchhiker's Trailer, especially when it switches to the standard Jim Cummings narration.



Super Family Tension

Sometimes those closest to you are the most annoying.

I don't know why that is. If you love someone, you should want to spend as much time in their presence as possible, yet long periods of time around the same people can sometimes result in tension. Outside frustrations can often enter the home as well, resulting in misplaced outbursts to those who don't understand. In The Incredibles, the father is bored and unfulfilled in his job. At the dinner table he can barely pay attention to his family, and runs out with his friend at the first opportunity to go out and use his superpowers. His children, like most siblings, are at each other's throats. The shy daughter cannot get the attention of a boy she likes at school. The son, frustrated that he cannot use his super-speed powers and go out for sports, acts out in class playing practical jokes on his teacher. The children are upset with their lives and take it out on each other, and it isn't until later in the movie when they're facing real villains that they demonstrate their love and willingness to defend each other. It's a strange paradox that family and fighting go hand-in-hand. It's only natural to see this reflected in super families. How often have we seen the Fantastic Four bicker among themselves? If memory serves, even the Bionic Six had their problems.

This morning as I was eating my breakfast, my dad asked me to call a trumpet player tomorrow whose band we usually play for. This coming Friday we’re all playing a gig for someone else, and since he doesn't drive my dad wanted me to ask him if he needed a ride. I have a new supervisor at work and I'm still settling in to new procedures, but when my dad told me on Thursday that he'd accepted a job that started at 5:30, I sent my new boss an e-mail asking to take the day off. I spent the majority of my day yesterday in meetings as did my supervisor, and we all had other things to talk about. Not understanding my profession or the current situation in my office, my dad has repeatedly assured me, “Oh, they'll let you out early. It's Good Friday; I doubt the office will be open all day.” Having recently worked a full day in a blizzard, I had my doubts and knew it would be less stressful to take a day off if I could, rather than rush to get everything done, run home and change, run out to pick up the trumpet player on the South part of Long Island, and then jet back to Queens in the North. I'm considerably less of a workhorse than my father, and it would be just too much to handle for me.

He kept pressing the issue this morning. “Are you going to call Tony? You should call Tony. Tony might need a ride. Are you listening?” I was in fact barely awake as I ate my breakfast, and was registering what he was saying about as much as I was registering this morning's TMNT. I told him I didn't know if I had the day off yet and couldn't make definite plans until I called my boss on Monday to confirm. “Oh, you might not go then? I'm sure you can get out an hour early.” he said in a slightly irritated tone. In a perfect case of mistakenly bringing outside problems into the home and taking them out on those you love, I exploded and unleashed all my concerns about work, stressing that my job was my first priority over music even though he never understood that, and he shouldn’t have accepted a job FOR me without checking first. He shrugged and sobered me up quickly by pointing out that all he was asking was a simple question, and why was I getting so upset? At this point my mom came in and rebuked us both for yelling, since she had been on the phone with her cousin's daughter who finally had the results of her mother's autopsy: Juvenile Diabetes. It's rare that this would manifest in adults and so doctors dismissed her dizzy spells and it was far too late by the time she was brought to the hospital unconscious. Perhaps the broken leg she had at the time did something to trigger it, or perhaps it was just a fatal distraction for the doctors.

I'm very lucky that MY parents are still alive. My mom has lived with asthma most of her life and I have many scary childhood memories of the emergency room. Once the police had to pick me up from school because she was rushed to the hospital and my dad was still at work. My dad has been living in the shadow of a heart condition for over a decade now, and I've lived in fear of his mortality since high school, concerned any time he's seemed winded at a parade or while shoveling snow. A man of pride frustrated with not being able to work as hard as he once did, he himself has often lashed out with an “I'm fine!” or an “I'm not dead yet!” when I expressed concern or tried to pry a snow shovel from his hands. Recently after yet another of his longtime friends passed away, he's been more mellow about it and thinking of the future, showing me where to hit our oil burner when it stops working and telling me I have to learn how to take care of the house “when he's gone.”

Ironically, the best way to respect those closest to me was to get away from them for a few hours. I was wound tight today and knew from experience I would continue to say things I would regret, with insignificant provocation. I grabbed a book I'd neglected for months and got in my car, letting it take me where it would. It's easy to forget what a magical place I live in, how anywhere from a five to a fifteen minute drive can lead me to some secluded beach and away from suburbs and strip malls. I found myself several towns away and drove through a park to a quiet beach. The only sounds to be heard were the lapping of waves, the mournful cries of seagulls, and children playing lacrosse in a field at the end of the parking lot. I rolled down my window, leaned back, and enjoyed my book and my spontaneous “vacation.” It was the first time in weeks that I wasn't thinking about the calendar, or my job, or my musical dates, or even fun things like DVDs and the internet. I was able to relax and get a good amount of reading done for a few hours.

The author of that FF site raised a good point that they fight because they spend so much time together. Ultimately, I was reminded of family tension when I heard a father call out to his son, “Come ON! MOVE! You run like a FIFTY-year-old! There's NO reason to have missed that open goal!” When I was around the same age as the kids in that field, maybe 10 or 11, my own parents made me go out for soccer for one season. When they saw I was unhappy with it and would rather spend my Saturday mornings watching cartoons, they were concerned and disappointed but let me quit. I think I was drawn to that beach today to overhear that father, and to appreciate my own parents once more. On the way to church earlier this evening I told my mom what I'd heard, and as if knowing what I was thinking she said, “See? Your father and I weren't so bad.” Of course when she went on to remind me that they never said I ran like a fifty-year-old on the field, just that I looked like I was doing ballet, I began to feel tense and claustrophobic all over again.

Family: You gotta love ‘em.


Incredibly Luckey

Childhood was a time of innocence and optimism for me, a time when anything was possible and nothing got me down. I might have split my lip open playing in the woods, but within a week I was running around and climbing trees like nothing happened. I was the oldest among my neighborhood friends, and the leader by default. Being the leader not only meant inventing new and fun games to entertain ourselves, but sharing inspirational (naive?) world views that I myself believed. I actually once told the girl next door that “anybody could do anything!” Though two-and-a-half years younger than I, she'd already developed a cynicism that I wouldn't possess until years of being beaten down in school for opening my mouth. “No they CAN'T!” she insisted. “People can't FLY!” said a five-year-old confident in the evidence that proved her argument. I pointed out pilots and said that people who worked hard and studied planes could learn to fly them. I maintained that anyone was capable of anything, so long as they wanted it bad enough and worked hard at it.

Going to school and being around people my own age began to chip away at my optimism and confidence. Being bullied both physically and verbally taught me to keep my mouth shut, my thoughts and ideas to myself. My neighborhood friends got older, became interested in sports. Suddenly they were the leaders, and they were deciding what we would play. There would be games of football and basketball and baseball, but no make-believe, and no more made-up sports like tag on bikes with a frisbee. As I lost their respect, so too did I lose some self-esteem. Little by little, without realizing it, I became jaded. I listened to music that was considered cool by the popular kids, and not the more upbeat and happy tunes I used to sing with abandon on the playground while running around pretending to be Hannibal Smith. I buried the person I was deep within a shell of the person I would become, there to languish in darkness only to see the light around those I trusted, or when I was under the influence of alcohol.

Metaphorically, I'm something of a Mysterious Cloaked Figure in real life. One of the reasons I think I've always clicked with my friend Rey is the fact that I see in him an extroverted version of myself. People perceive me as someone who rarely speaks and takes things very seriously. Rey will break in to song at any time without warning, and it's not uncommon to hear Christmas carols from him in March. He's comfortable talking to anyone and speaking his mind, and should anyone challenge him or his interests, his ego drives him to display who he is with more pride. Make fun of him for liking Star Wars®, and it's likely to result in him wearing an ACTUAL cloak and walking around the office as a Sith lord. He doesn't care about being a geek or what people think. It hasn't stopped him from having a career, or finding a wife, or starting a family. If anything, such confidence has helped him. For every offbeat joke or action I might THINK of, he's actually SAYING and DOING.

Earlier this week I briefly mused about life's ups and downs, be they internal or external. Just as a person may go for months feeling healthy and then catch a cold for a week or so, only to get over it and have the cycle begin anew, so it is with our emotional states and the state of our affairs. Despite the state of my affairs of late, I've been inexplicably up this past week, for the most part. I suspect as the days get longer and the weather gets longer, I have a touch of Spring fever. If that were not enough to cheer me up, I also picked up The Incredibles on DVD the other day, and I've been watching it ever since. It has tons of great special features and Easter eggs, and while I have a lot to say about the feature and things relating to it, tonight I have something else on my mind.

The DVD included a short animated piece entitled Boundin'. It's the tale of a happy dancing sheep who becomes forlorn and quiet after being shorn, withdrawing and feeling sorry for himself as his friends laugh at his nakedness. Boundin' originally aired in theaters before the Incredibles, and possessed an innocence and world view I'd forgotten, reflecting such magical childhood loves as Dr. Seuss. The cartoon was conceived, written, and voiced by Bud Luckey, who reminisced about children's cartoons he worked on back in the ‘70s. He's almost choked up as he points out how he taught kids numbers on Sesame Street, and now those kids are grown up and teaching him how numbers and computers can animate.

Luckey plucks away at a ukulele as well in the short, and as the cartoon progresses the downtrodden sheep meets up with a mythical jackalope that has some sage advice for our shorn hero. I know it was just a children's cartoon, but something in it really spoke to me and left me inspired. The cartoons of our childhood had a way of simplifying everything, and that's something that gets lost when we grow up. Life is complicated. Bills. Taxes. School. Grades. Classes. Forms. Paperwork. I.D. cards. Phone numbers. Credit card numbers. There's an endless amount of “important” information that can bury the things we learned when we were younger. Maybe those things resurface when we become parents, and maybe if we're lucky enough we get a glimpse of what's been inside all along. I suspect the following words will stay with me for the rest of my life, and hopefully someday I'll have children of my own to share them with:

Now, sometimes you're up,
and sometimes you're down.
When you find that you're down,
well just look around:
You still got a body,
good legs and fine feet;
get your head in the right place
and hey, you're complete.


The Scoop

Yesterday I asked for your thoughts about the Blog Party. Several of you responded, and it seems like for the most part we're on the same wavelength. I'd still like to hear more thoughts so continue to respond, but for now here's the scoop on what I think:

1) I think Monday or any weekday other than a Friday would be good. Monday was my initial thought because I'd have Sunday to prepare my contribution, but it's something I could always write on the weekend and save for the given day. Perhaps my next party will be a Tuesday or a Wednesday.

2) Something about breaking a topic down in to a list appeals to me, and I think makes it more attractive to people. There's some “quiz” mentality left over from school years that I think compels us to answer. It's also very hard to narrow a “favorites” question down to just one, but some of the ideas I have will take other forms outside of lists as well.

3) False. Holidays are too few and far between(an aspect of life that makes me want to curl up and go to sleep sometimes). As readership increases and hopefully becomes global, it's also not fair to use holidays that are only occurring in my immediate vicinity.

4) I'm thinking about a week too, so long as there's a weekend in between to give people time to write. It should be far enough in advance to give people a chance to think about it and announce it on their own blogs, but not so far that people forget or the event becomes anticlimactic.

5) Two weeks apart is my thought too, for several reasons. It takes time to prepare between events, it leaves room for other bloggers to be hosts, and I have other things to write about. If I held them too close together I think I'd risk it becoming gimmicky or falling into a rut of being the “blog party blog”. As it is, several topics that have occurred to me at work this week are sitting in my inbox where I've e-mailed myself reminders to tackle them after I'm done polling.

6) I still encourage comments for the “live” aspect, so readers can visit the other blogs without waiting for the afterparty. However, since comments proved unreliable the last time, I'll definitely provide an e-mail address as back-up.

7) The host's should go up first, and I think the night before might be the best route(especially when most mornings I'm taking too long to get out the door and get to work too.) If I do post in the morning it will be early, before 8AM.

And there you have it. Please continue to share your thoughts on this topic. Tune in tomorrow when I resume “normal” non-BlogParty-related blogging. It should be a good one....


The FATE of the Blog Party.

Only YOU can save the Blog Party.

OK, not really. But I'd like to hear what you think about some things.

Blog Party I was great. I got to know all my neighbors, and everyone enjoyed several five discourse meals. I hoped I'd started a trend. Jerry had mentioned a great topic shortly after the event that he would host at some point, and AverageJoe had a good suggestion as well. So far, only one other person that I know of has hosted a party besides myself. After a few weeks had elapsed, I decided to hold a second blog party. This one went quite well despite a glitch that prevented anyone from commenting last Friday. I'm guessing that a Friday may NOT have been the best day for it, and it seems a lot of readers aren't around on Saturday and Sunday.

I'm definitely going to be holding more of these, and I'd definitely participate if anyone else hosted a party. I have a range of subjects in mind for future parties and welcome any suggestions, and as I read each of your blogs and get a better sense of the common interests that got me reading to begin with, the topics will hopefully get even more appealing. Two parties isn't enough to really gauge the optimum conditions for a Blog Party, but it's raised some questions and this seems like a good time to poll everyone. I have my own answers to these questions, but I'll save them until after I've heard from you:

1) What is the best day of the week for a Blog Party?

2) Is a list the best format for a common topic?

3) True or False: A Blog Party should ONLY coincide with a holiday on which the majority of readers are home from work.(“majority” does not include the one reader from Scotland at this time; sorry FawnDoo)

4) How far in advance should a Blog Party be announced?

5) How far apart should any one host's parties be? Two weeks? A month?

6) In the event of a problem with the host site's comment system, should the host supply an e-mail address as an alternate way of notifying the host of posts to include in the AfterParty wrap-up?(This is possibly the most rhetorical question on the poll, I realize)

7) Should the host entry be up the night before or the morning of the party(based on times within the host time zone.)

I'll be back tomorrow with my own thoughts on these questions and hopefully some valuable input from you, my neighbors.



Unexpected Meme

Whether you plan each moment of your life meticulously, or just wake up each day and let life drive you where it will, there will always be something to take you by surprise. I had planned to muse about emotional roller coasters tonight, about the strange trips I take between joy and regret, to see if others share in such extremes. With all the changes at work lately I'd found myself in a funk, and the news that Friday was the last day for an old friend, who was leaving the company to teach literally on the other side of the planet left me with some mixed feelings about the last things I said to her, and more importantly those that I didn't say. Saturday was more of an upbeat day since I got outside for a while and kept busy, but I spent the majority of Sunday in my room with the lights out and the curtains drawn sleeping and watching DVDs. But the last two days, with the sunny weather and rising temperatures, I've been upbeat and alive again. I've had energy in the gym and at work, and I've been tackling and handling a significantly increased workload and a potentially problematic new supervisor pretty well so far. Maybe I'm happy because I was expecting the insurmountable and finding things to be not so bad, or maybe the human brain reaches a point where a person wallows in angst for so long that he or she automatically snap to the other extreme of laughing and joking. I don't think it's a sign of manic-depression since my up days and down days don't snap into place suddenly like a mood swing. It's more of an after-the-fact realization like “Hey, I'm having fun” or “Man, this sucks.” I was prepared to delve deep into this subject and compare notes about good days and bad days with readers, and then I saw last night's Happy Husband, and decided to instead shed some light on Curt's confusion. Presented now are my explanations of 23 Things Curt Doesn't Understand:

1) Heavy Metal Music: It just sounds cool. There's some degree of music involved despite the focus on a limited range of chords, and at some point it just becomes about the driving rhythm. While never a full-on headbanger, music from groups like Metallica motivated me in college when I had to stay up late and finish art projects. Because at some point it ceases to become music and becomes (angry) noise, I didn't have to focus on it and my brain could access subconscious layers of creativity. Besides, some movies just wouldn't be the same with any other style music. For more on Heavy Metal and it's inevitable decline in our society, please watch this educational video.

2) Modern Video Games: Modern games are realistic three-dimensional simulations that prepare children and adults alike for military stealth missions or surviving zombie infestations and corporate corruption. Classic video games were two-dimensional and involved guiding a yellow circle through a blue maze eating white dots. What's not to understand?

3) Why anyone would get married thinking, "If it doesn't work out, I can always get a divorce.": Me, I blame Susan Lucci

4) How anyone can believe there is no God I'm with you on this one. Even if they don't believe in the SAME God, there's too much evidence of SOME higher power to chalk everything up to randomness. The idea of complete cessation of existence at death is somewhat frightening too. Right now I AM, but tomorrow I MAY NOT BE? That's harder to wrap my mind around than the alternative.

5) How anyone can believe there is a God and still live as if He didn't exist. I would go with the parent analogy of God as Father with this one. We're supposed to honor our parents, but we've ALL disobeyed them at one time or another. I knew there would be consequences and repercussions if I snuck candy before dinner. I knew my mom existed; I still did it. It's just part of human nature, a weakness that comes with free will I think. It takes a conscious effort to NOT do something just as it does to DO something.

6) How my wife can be so amazing so consistently If she wasn't, you'd have to rename your blog and you and your friends would have to redo a bunch of banners.

7) Why she ever liked me to begin with Having seen you in real life, I'm guessing because she knows you're not likely to stray? Kidding. Actually that was a question I asked myself constantly for all the years I was with my last girlfriend. It's oddly reassuring to see that insecurity continues even for people who are living “happily ever after”. It validates those feelings and I realize that's the driving force that makes any man work to keep his lady. As soon as you get secure and comfortable, that's when you're in trouble.

8) The book of Revelation I suspect Rey could field this one.

9) nearly every movie in the American Film Institute's top ten I've only seen five of them, myself. I agree with the five I've seen, but perhaps when I've seen the others I can better understand this one. They certainly don't clarify criteria--is it based on ticket sales? that changes with population and inflation. Awards? A vote by a council of “experts”? If it's the last one, I just might have to convene my own group of experts and come up with our own list. No UHF? Now THAT'S hard to understand.

10) people who relish sex without love Maybe they don't. Maybe they just want to THINK they do, and are convincing others as much as themselves.

11) people who confuse sex with love Someone we know could field this one but as I pasted the URL I realized it might be an insensitive joke and thought better of it.

12) Dune That's a shame, especially since you only read the first page. I admit there were some pages I had to reread and some aspects of the story I didn't fully envision until I saw the sci-fi miniseries If you didn't understand the 1984 film that would make sense, but I was surprised that the story of a mother who flees into the desert with a son destined to become a messiah to free an enslaved people wouldn't resonate with some of your other inclinations. It's worth giving a second chance, in my opinion.

13) the German language The extent of my knowledge comes solely from Nightcrawler--”Ach du lieber Mien Freunds!” ::BAMF!!!::

14) the C++ programming language Um....10 Print “C++”, 20 GOTO 10? No?

15) pretty much any word coming from the mouth of Bernie Mac AMERICA! Can you BElieve this here fool? Lawba dib dub. Fasnazzle.

16) Einstein's theory of relativity This is the best explanation I could find. Basically, the speed of light is constant no matter how fast or slow we move. Then I kept reading, confident that 12 years ago this all made perfect sense in high school, and now I feel a little depressed and stupid.

17) why some people consciously choose Windows XP over Mac OS X It has to do with the majority syndrome, that people are sheep who do what the majority of others are doing. PCs are also a LOT cheaper than Macs, and what costs us Mac users 2 grand they can build for under $300. I can understand it, but I understand the user-friendliness of my Mac a lot better.

18) why I sometimes take my marriage for granted Probably because you get comfortable in point #6 and forget about point #7.

19) chess…and Risk…and any role-playing game See this educational reenactment.

20) why we must all die a bit in order to grow The past is an anchor that prevents us from moving in to the future. We can only go so far if we try to lug everything with us.

21) vegans A better question would be why a carnivore like myself is so repulsed by images from a hunting catalog....

22) black holes and quantum physics A black hole is a star that has collapsed upon itself creating a gravitational pull from which nothing, not even light, may escape. It's also a great movie from my childhood. The gist of quantum physics, as explained to me by Rey, is that at the subatomic level molecules DON”T behave they way we'd expect them to and atoms aren't these neat little “planets” with orbiting protons and electrons. In fact, the laws of physics are so different it's as though some outside force were acting upon the particles to change their behavior. See point #4.

23) how my wife grows more beautiful every single day I'm guessing this is because of something you did. Everybody head on over to Curt's and congratulate Mr. and Mrs. Happy!

Disclaimer: While not a scientist and clearly not grasping Einstein's theory to it's fullest, please be assured that MCF does indeed know the meaning of the word ”rhetorical” and just thought this would make for a fun column. Tune in tomorrow for your regularly scheduled obscure references to pop culture and made-up social “gatherings”.


Aquaman and Missing 13

The following is a guest-Nexus courtesy of AverageJoe. Enjoy!:

* * *

I am an Aquaman fan. There, I've said it.  In fact, I'd probably put Aquaman in my list of top ten favorite heroes.  My fascination with water-breathing characters actually began back in 1977 with the pilot episode of Man From Atlantis. I'm sure I was already peripherally aware of Aquaman at this point, but seeing a live-action character swimming and breathing underwater really stuck with me.  I think I may have had one or two issues of Aquaman's initial series, but I don't really remember them.  I followed his exploits in Justice League of America for a while and looked out for any other comics he might appear in.  After a very cool mini-series, DC Comics ended Aquaman's Fiftieth Anniversary Year with the debut of a new ongoing series.  Of course I jumped on board and picked it up every month.  Unfortunately, it was canceled a year later.  I remember being surprised that issue twelve wasn't the last issue, but that there would be a thirteenth issue followed by a new mini-series that would lead into a restructuring of the character.  I went down to my local comic store the week the final issue came out...and it was sold out!  Due to it being canceled, the shop ordered very little of the final issue and it sold out immediately.  No #13 for me.  At least I had the main story complete so I wasn't too worried about not getting the

Cut to mid 1994 and a new Aquaman #1, this series written by one of my favorite writers, Peter David.  Let me digress here for a moment and explain my comic book reading habits for just a moment.  Each week, there are some comics that must be read that night.  That can vary from month to month.  Next in line are the ones that usually get read by the end of the week.  After that are the titles that I save up and read once a storyline has been completed.  With certain, densely written titles it just makes more sense to read the complete four to six issue storyline in one sitting. Lastly are the two or three titles I buy purely for collection reasons. These are usually titles I have several hundred consecutive issues of and don't particularly care about the current storyline, writer and/or artist, but keep up with them for the sake of the collection and bide my time until the creative team changes for the better.  During this time, Aquaman actually fell into the "read the entire storyline" group.  Eventually I sat down to read a spat of issues, only to discover I was missing an issue. #13.  I trekked down to the local store and, believe it or not, they were out of it.  I went to another shop across town and...They were out of it too.  Peter David was eventually fired from the title and I dropped in protest, only breaking that rule for the final storyline by Dan Jurgens that ended the series.

2003 saw a brand new Aquaman #1, this time by another favorite writer, Rick Veitch.  Veitch crafted a terrific twelve issue storyline and I was a little disappointed to hear he was leaving after that.  There would be a couple of fill in issues after his run before a new creative team came aboard.  I read his last issue and decided I would stay along for the ride and see where the title went from there.  Issue 12 was a good send off.  I went into the local shop a few weeks later and saw the latest issue of Aquaman...#14.  Yes, for the third series in a row of the same character I missed the exact same issue number as before.  And, like before, the shop I frequented as well as all the other local comic shops were all out of their copies.  This time, however, I had technology on my side. Through the wonder that is the Internet, this time I got me a damn copy of Aquaman#13!  I've continued with the title, not missing anymore issues.  I hope this series lasts for a good long while, as I'd hate to miss issue 13 for a fourth time.  Or maybe third time's the charm and the spell is broken?  At any rate, I have the current series complete, but I never have found #13 for the previous two runs.  Maybe it's time to look for them...



Phantasmic Links 3.13.05

Shhhhh. Don't tell anyone, but after watching this movie, I think I'm a closet folk music fan. Six hours later and I'm still humming the tunes. There's only one way to purge the braying in my brain, and that's with some PHANTASMIC LINKS:

I found a very cool gallery of comic book art this afternoon. Enjoy it before the copyright infringement is inevitably challenged.

My Wu-Name is Asthmatic Chief.
Try the Wu-Tang Clan Name Generator today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.
Hat tip to Geekbird.

One of my friends at work sent me this animated short in which a new “sport” is taken to the extreme.

Is time and the technological and social progression of society as a whole progressing ever faster, as though moving toward the inside curves of a spiral?

Hey! Happy....birthday?

How's your favorite T.V. show faring ths season?

Childhood goes by too fast and though adults warn us of as much, we take things for granted. One day we realize we're in a pointless loop of repetitive activities, longing for some miraculous escape, that One Thing we're missing that would Make It All Better. Even if we think we've found it, have we? Or is it all an illusion of things once lost, that can never be regained. The short film ”More” resonated with some things that have been on my mind lately, and the haunting animation I just watched will be with me for some time. I found this link in a post over at Sarcasmo's in a post with an impressive collection of interesting links.

Speaking of a happy childhood, I found a site which covers in detail one of my happier youthful pastimes. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bubblesphere



Afterparty of Canned Laughter

I am exhausted. It could be because I got up early, drove out to Eastern Long Island, and spent a good part of my day in a parade behind a giant inflatable bear with a drunken smile while people, some with green hair, cheered from the sidelines. That could be the reason I was nodding off in church earlier, and why I passed out for a few hours after dinner tonight. It could be that, but more likely I'm just partied out after last night.

We certainly all had some laughs yesterday, but Improbability had the biggest laugh on me as usual, shifting so that blogger commenting was disabled on the day I chose for my second blog party, turning comedy into drama-dy. “Such is life”, as a good friend would say. Perhaps it wasn't the best day for a party and an upcoming column this week will poll readers about the specific future of the Blog Party, but my neighbors pulled together nonetheless. Between those who were able to comment, those who e-mailed me directly, and by going down the list in my blogroll, I was able to see other homes serving up some laughs. I've done my best to keep track, and hopefully I have everyone who contributed these past two days:

Film Geeks:
1. Charley Dietz from Empty Nest
2. Wilson from Home Improvement
3. Dauber from Coach

Stu's Rants:
1. Arthur Fonzarelli from Happy Days
2. Lowell Mather from Wings
3. Cliff Clavin & Norm Peterson from Cheers

Paradoxes and Problems:
1. The Chief from Get Smart
2. Cosmo Kramer from Seinfeld
3. Zorak from Space Ghost: Coast to Coast

The Happy Husband:
Mrs. Happy:
1. Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle
2. Stewie from Family Guy
3. Turk from Scrubs

1. Hank Scorpio from The Simpsons
2. Harry “The Hat” from Cheers
3. Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons

Willow Crossing:
1. Puddy from Seinfeld
2. Jimmy James from Newsradio
3. Karen from Will & Grace
J. Peterman from Seinfeld as a runner-up

The Bayer Family(Kev):
1. Radar from Mash
2. Frasier from Cheers
3. The Evil Monkey from Family Guy

The Boiled Egg of Infinity:
1. Ace Rimmer from Red Dwarf
2. Tim Canterbury from The Office(UK)
3. General Sir Anthony Hogmanay Melchett from Blackadder

Digressions from the Omniverse:
1. Ira Buchman from Mad about You
2. Frank Costanza from Seinfeld
3. Gene/Jean from Quark

And there you have it. Comments permitting, post any late entries or contributions I missed. Thanks again for the laughs neighbors; we'll do this again sometime!

”When you spin my buzzer, it plays the theme from ‘Night Court' starring Richard Moll.”